We've left our adolescence and are entering our grownup years,” said Anne Jonas, daughter of CIROBE (Chicago International Remainder and Overstock Book Exposition) cofounder Brad Jonas, as she delivered the trade show's closing announcement on Sunday, October 28. The show began the preceding Friday, with the traditional noon opening moved up to 9 a.m., a change that met with unanimous approval. “Friday is the day the most people are buying, and we wanted to maximize their opportunities,” explained show cofounder Marshall Smith.
Since its launch, attendance at CIROBE has increased steadily through the years and, as Fairmount Books president Marty Cutler noted, “The more of us [exhibitors] there are, the more booksellers come.” While overall attendance was up just 5% from last year, the number of exhibitors increased by 12%—i.e., more firms registered, but each sent fewer delegates. Attendance at the door was up 14%, and approximately 22% of the overall attendance was international visitors—21 countries were represented, from Canada, Australia and New Zealand to Asia and Central and South America.
Perceptions differed as to the traffic flow, from “nonstop” to “lighter than usual.” Even the latter contingent, however, were pleased with their orders—Tamara Stock of Daedalus Books said, “We saw everybody we needed to see, and our stack [of orders] is a lot thicker than I thought it would be.” For Cutler, “It's the quality of buyers, not the number of people in the hall.”
Not only did Karen Lunstead of Antique Collectors' Club have a successful show (“the busiest in the five years I've been here”), but she echoed many of her colleagues about an acknowledged CIROBE benefit: “As usual, it was a great show for making new contacts, and for finally meeting people who I've been dealing with for years.”
To keep pace with the show's evolving climate, Virginia Taylor of Taylor Marketing said that her nine-year-old company is diversifying into stationery items, calendars, toys and DVDs. Taking a cue from the bestseller Who Moved My Cheese? she noted, “When the cheese gets moved, you've got to move right along with it.”
About 10% of this year's attendees were first-timers. At Chicago-based Reader's Digest/Books Are Fun, Jack Lemuz viewed the show as “a great way to clean up our inventory.” Business was so strong, he reported, that “we didn't even take breaks on Friday.”
Another satisfied newbie was Dalkey Archive Press, the prestigious small publisher at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana that focuses on international literature. Associate director Martin Riker explained that Dalkey was clearing out excess inventory of some 300 titles. “The orders have been great,” he said. “I love the idea that this gets our books into stores that they might not have reached through regular channels.”
One of the industry's major players (and a 15-year CIROBE veteran), Jeff Press of World Publications, reported, “This could be a record-breaking show; I think we might have a 30% increase over last year.” And the venerable Mel Shapiro of Book Sales (dubbed “the grandfather of us all” by BookSmart's Kim Huey ) called the show “very, very successful.”
Among the attendees, Mark Mouser at the University of Washington in Seattle “wrote orders with at least 25 vendors. I saw several folks I hadn't seen before, and found a few titles I'd been hunting for for quite a while.” One local bookseller, Roberta Rubin of the Book Stall in Winnetka, Ill., had “a great show,” but said she was “surprised not to see more independent booksellers” at the show, “especially since I know what a success our sale book section has become.”
Helen Garfield, trade book buyer for remainders at New York City's Metropolitan Museum, concurred with Rubin's take on remainders: “[They] enable customers to make multiple purchases of books they may not otherwise buy. They keep customers browsing in the store; it seems you can never buy 'just one'—you buy an armload.”
Despite their success to date, both Jonas and Smith are looking for ways to keep the show current. One issue, Smith says, is “how do we maximize the hours we're open to best serve both sides of the aisle?” And Jonas hopes to “continue to find the new people who need bargain books in their world, and not to move so far away from the core of what made us so successful in the first place.”
And CIROBE's future? “This show will be viable for many years to come,” said Ben Archer at Book Country Clearing House. “In five years it will be as strong, if not stronger.”